June 30, 2011

If High School Students Ran our Country

When I was in high school, our American Government class was a semester-long simulation.  This experiential instructional method is pretty standard now, but was pretty ground-breaking at the time. 

We learned about how our government works by basically turning the senior class into a mock government.  We did all the research ourselves and then proposed bills to committees and then during the general assembly.  Many of the things that frustrated me during the simulation are things that happen in real life too (people voting with their party lines because they were uninformed, people voting without reading the bills, voting for a bill because the reps promised to vote for ours).  Talk about real-world application, right?!

One of my high school teachers posted the following on Facebook yesterday: 

Teaching American Gov't. in summer school. General Assembly simulation today: Gay Marriage and Equal Rights Bill was moved, seconded, and, without debate, passed unanimously on a voice vote. The bill became law in under a minute. If that's not progress, I don't know what is. (Every other bill took 20-40 minutes before being adopted or rejected.)

I love that this is such a non-issue for younger generations!  Why our current government spends so much time debating this is seriously beyond me.  This gives me so much hope for our future!

June 29, 2011

How to Talk to Girls

Lisa Bloom had an article in the Huffington Post last week about How to Talk To Little Girls that brought up what I think is a very valid consideration.

How often to do we see little girls and immediately compliment them on her pretty dress or beautiful smile?  It's pretty standard small-talk with the little ones in our society.  I know I'm guilty here.

My adorable AND intelligent cousin, Alex.
Is there anything inherently wrong with telling a little girl that she's pretty?  Of course not.  But Bloom is worried that all of our attention to physical appearance has adverse effects on these girls as they age.  She's concerned, as we all should be, about young girls dieting, wearing makeup, getting cosmetic surgery, having negative self-esteem.  

Instead, Bloom suggests that you ask that little girl to tell you about her favorite book.  Connect with her on an intellectual level so she feels appreciated for her ideas rather than her pretty, blue eyes.

I definitely agree that we should remember to praise our girls for being polite, caring, creative, smart, etc., but I don't think it's bad to also tell them they are beautiful. In our society, there's no getting around the fact that girls are going to be bombarded with messages about beauty.  And when my daughters are questioning their appearances because they don't meet some unrealistic standard they see in a magazine, I would want them to hear my voice in their head reminding them over and over again that they are, indeed, beautiful. 

Zumba Summer

Summer is in full swing in the Chicagoland area, and I have to say that I'm loving the weather we've been having this week! 

Even though I'm not working this summer, I've been staying busy with extra Zumba classes.  Tom isn't always the best influence on me in the food department, but he does kick my booty in the gym.  And, since moving in together, I have added several classes to my weekly regime.  I even wake up at 7:30 AM (!) on Saturdays to go with him to our Zumba Toning class before Zumba Fitness.  This used to be the class I'd sleep through, but carpooling gives me the motivation to get out of bed!

I have to say, I never thought I'd be the kinda of person to plan my day around working out.  I just never enjoyed it before.  I'm so thankful for Zumba... I can't say that enough!  My only concern now is that showering seems like such a waste of time because I just get up in the morning and sweat all over again! Haha!

Tom also started Aqua Zumba this summer and we have class three times a week.  I love it!  It's nice that I don't get super sweaty since my body is cooler in the pool, and I can really feel the water resistance.  Poor Tom gets super drenched, though, because he has to instruct from the deck so we can see his feet.  I have to admit that it's kinda entertaining to watch the beads of sweat drip from his body.

If you haven't yet tried Aqua Zumba, I highly recommend giving it a try.  Especially for those who need a lower impact workout.  I have a bad left knee, but it hasn't bothered me at all in the pool.  Here's a video so you can get an idea of what to expect, featuring the fabulous Kelly Bullard:

June 26, 2011

Sorting Between Plants and Weeds

One thing I'm not crazy about in our new home is that we have to do all the yard work ourselves.  I thought one of the perks of renting was that we wouldn't have to do this stuff, but as it turns out, we do. 

We've already established that I'm not an engineer, and I have quickly learned that I am also not a gardener.  The other day, I was in the front yard trimming the hedges with the new clippers I borrowed from my parents when my neighbor walked by and said, "Here, honey, let me show you how to do that!"  She then proceeded to show me the proper way to "round it out," which is exactly what I thought  I was doing before she intervened. 

Armed with my new gardening gloves from my mama, today was attempt number two at weeding my garden.  The name of this game was, Are You a Plant or Weed? because truthfully, I couldn't tell the difference much of the time.  Some were easy to spot, both others I wasn't so sure about so I left them until someone wiser can tell me what do with them. 

Then I thought about how this is kinda like a metaphor for life.  Sometimes, it's hard to tell if a person is a weed because there are some tricky little bastards out there trying to deceive us, trying to invade our space.  And the problem with weeds, I've learned, is that you always have to be on guard because they have magical abilities to repopulate much faster than the plants in life, and then pretty soon, they've hidden the beautiful plants in your garden. 

Learn to spot the weeds, my friends, and be sure to get their roots!

June 22, 2011

The Beautiful People

I came across a few articles this week about tens of thousands of people being kicked off a dating website for not being physically attractive enough.  Frankly, I'm still trying to decide how I feel about the existence of such a site. 

For those that don't know, the site is beautifulpeople.com.  Basically, it touts itself as an online club for the aesthetically elite.  Basically, it's the perfect dating site for anyone looking for a trophy wife (or husband) - as long as you're considered to be eye candy yourself.     

Because it's the members themselves who hold the entrance key into this club.  Applicants can submit their profiles (for a fee), and then current members have to vote on their level of attractiveness for two days before the site can officially confirm or deny their membership. 

And as the advertisement shows, these are clearly the most beautiful people in the world, right?  I mean, they're posing with a ferocious lion, so that pretty much screams, "Sexy!"  What single person wouldn't want to be a part of this site?!

Except for maybe those of us that think people have more to offer than their physical appearance .  Of course there needs to be a certain level of physical attraction in a relationship, but do I care if the person I date has gained the approval of a specified percentage of my peers?  Not at all.  

I thought about being offended that this site even exists.  I mean, who would join this site anyway??  But then I considered the real possibility that this site keeps (at least a percentage of) the extremely shallow people out of the normal dating pool... which is really a win-win situation, in my humble opinion.     

If any of my (more confident and thicker skinned) friends dare apply to this site and get accepted, I demand that I be allowed to see these so-called beautiful people for myself!!

June 21, 2011

Old Friends

Back in high school, I was pretty much attached at the hip to my three best friends: Ashley, Sarah and Tracy.  Not only did we hang out in school, but we were also cheerleaders together.  We were involved in the same church youth group and Campus Life group.  We worked at an after-school program together.  We vacationed to Florida together for spring breaks.  We camped in Wisconsin and Michigan together.  We even went to Mexico together on a mission's trip.  And, of course, we spent every possible minute of our free time together. 

These were my girls.  It's no surprise that the majority of my memories from those years were spent with them, and I couldn't imagine my life without them by my side.

And then life happens.  We all went to different colleges all over the state and made new friends.  New relationships, jobs, and life experiences took us in separate directions and locations.  Things changed.  Ashley is still one of my closest friends probably because we were most similar in lifestyle after college, but in time, I saw Sarah and Tracy less and less.

I honestly didn't realize how much I even missed our little foursome until I saw Sarah a couple weekends ago at her baby shower.  The two of us had so much fun catching up that we got together again this morning for coffee while she was still in town from Father's Day.  It was so fun to reminisce about all the fun times we had and catch up on gossip.  We're already planning my trip to Galena (maybe with Ashley) to visit her in a couple weeks. 

I love the friends that you can go years without seeing and then pick up right where you left off like nothing changed.  It's so fun to be reconnected with people who were so meaningful for so many years.  I hope we can get our whole group together for dinner one of these days - imagine how much fun that would be!

June 20, 2011

Eat Dessert First

This morning on The View, Joy Behar suggested what I think might be the best portion-control diet in the world: Eat Dessert First. 

I, for one, think this is a brilliant idea!   

I can't tell you the number of times I've really just wanted a sweet treat but told myself, "No dessert until you eat your dinner!"  Does my meal make me eat any less of the baked goods I was craving?  No.  It only forces me to consume extra calories before I even get to the part I really want. 

Imagine if I had just enjoyed my ice cream right away.  Maybe I wouldn't have even wanted to eat my dinner afterward.  At the very least, I'm sure I would have eat less because my stomach would have been full of I really wanted.

Ice cream and cupcakes and pies, oh my!

I like this new diet already!

June 17, 2011

The Great Homework Debate

I saw a link from Scholastic to this article on my Facebook news feed yesterday.

As a teacher, I struggle with the "no homework" push.  Any teacher can tell you that even with homework, it's extremely difficult to even cover all of the concepts that are expected of us much less to ensure student mastery of each skill.  Do I think that students need to do a specified amount of homework for each class every night?  No.  But I do believe there are some good life-lessons that come from a little practice at home. 

For one, I have an issue with raising a generation of kids that believe they are "done" when that bell rings at 3:00, even if they didn't finish their work.  That simply doesn't apply to the real world.  Imagine if I walked out the door with my students after that bell and washed  my hands of all lesson planning that was incomplete for the following day! 

Furthermore, what does it teach them about using their time wisely while they're in class?  Certainly, anyone who has worked with children can tell you how quickly students would catch on to the fact that they could waste time in class and still have no consequence of homework on their own time.  

Finally, when I grew up, there was this motto I heard all the time: Practice makes perfect!  Do you think Michael Jordan simply walked away from each practice and refused to even think about the game until the next one?  Of course not!  That's not how you get to be the best!  And don't we want that for our children - for them to be the best they can be?

I don't assign a lot of homework in my classroom.  In fact, a student who uses his time wisely in my classroom will likely have no homework at all, aside from independent reading.  I think I do a pretty good job of assessing my class each day, and when I see that they need more time for a project, I extend deadlines to allow for that to be done in my classroom.  However, I have a few students who refuse to use their class time wisely, those that procrastinate on long-term assignments, are repeatedly absent, or are pulled out for music lessons.  I have to draw the line somewhere.  I don't think it's fair for me to hold up the rest of the class for those few students, so they will have to finish their work at home.  I don't think that's unreasonable.   

And yes, I recognize that my students have a lot going on outside of school, but I those are choices that families make.  If your child is involved in so many activities that he simply cannot complete a simple assignment, I think it's time for you, as a parent, to ask yourself if all of those commitments are really necessary. 

When I was a kid, homework was our first priority and then the fun.  I think we really need to question ourselves as a society when we start pushing for schools to cease all learning at 3:00 so little Johnny can go to football and guitar lessons and everything else under the sun.  Where are our priorities? 

June 9, 2011

As You Are

If you like a good inspirational story, Nick Vujicic has one you won't want to miss.  Born without limbs, this motivational speaker travels the world to share his message about overcoming obstacles.

In this image-driven society, I think we spend too much time picking ourselves apart.  There's nothing wrong with trying to better yourself, but I think it's far too easy (especially for women) to get caught up in self-loathing.

To that end, my friend, Allison, is doing a Summer of Love series on her blog to encourage everyone to learn to love themselves exactly as they are.  And I think this video, which shows a glimpse of Nick's message, is completely on point with her serie

I love this message about learning to love yourself exactly as you are. 

June 8, 2011

Easy and Delicious White Sangira

Holy hotness, Batman!  I'm sure glad to have a working air conditioner these days!  

I don't know about you, but when I think of summer, I think of sangria.  I realize that makes me sound like an alcoholic, but I promise you that I'm not.  There's just something about a cool, fruit-filled sangria that makes me want to sit on the deck and enjoy the summer sun.  

A few years ago, my coworker introduced me to this amazing white sangria that has been my favorite ever since.  The best part is that it's super easy - the only alcohol you need is a bottle of white wine.  And who doesn't have a bottle of wine lying around, right?!  And since you can use any kind of wine, this is a great way to use the bottles you wouldn't normally drink.  (We can't let good wine to go waste!)   

Ingredients
1 bottle of any white wine
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
16 oz of lemon-lime pop (or soda )
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup orange slices
1/2 cup lemon slices
1/2 cup lime slices

Directions
To a large pitcher add wine, sugar and organe juice. 
Mix well.
Add fruits
Chill or add ice cubes (or wine cubes if you want to take a cue from Melissa)
Add the pop right before serving

June 7, 2011

Welcome, Summer!

Today marked the end of the 2010-2011 school year.  I was fortunate to be able to finish the year teaching 8th grade math for a teacher who had to take a medical leave at a school I really like.  It was fun to have a routine and familiarity again after a couple months of day-to-day subbing.  It's also pretty nice to have a couple good paychecks before heading into a summer of unemployment.   

Although I'm certainly glad to have summer ahead of me, I can't help but feel a little anxiety over not knowing where I'll be next year.  If I have to sub again, I will, but I'd really, really like my own classroom again.  I've been assured by multiple administrators that they've been really impressed with me, but I'm still waiting to see if that will help me land a job.  I'm still filling out those job applications.  And I still think it's a waste of time (but welcome the chance to be proved wrong). 

I kicked off my vacation with an afternoon nap followed by Zumba, grocery shopping, and now Harry Potter (This is the start of a marathon so I can catch up to the rest of the world before the new movie is released this summer.) with my fabulous roomie.  My alarm is officially disabled for the summer, and I couldn't be happier!  Unless, of course, we had a pool.

June 5, 2011

No Mowing for Me!

My dad's parents (and my God-dog, Samantha) visited me at my new house today for the first time.  They were kind enough to bring me their old reel lawn mower to use on our small patch of grass (and weeds) that we call our yard.  I have to admit, I was pretty excited to be able to hack away at the jungle that was growing in front of our house.  It was kinda embarrassing. 

As soon as they left, I took the mower out front and got to work.  Within a matter of minutes, though, I realized this was not going to be an easy task for two reasons:

1. The grass was so long that the mower would flatten it instead of cut it, requiring me to go over the same spot multiple times.
2. I couldn't see. 

This little chore reminded me that I think I'm allergic to grass because almost immediately, my eyes started burning, itching and watering so badly that I had a hard time seeing what I was doing.  I had to haphazardly finish the job so it wouldn't look too ghetto, but I was pretty miserable the entire time. 

Tom, I think the grass cutting will have to be your job!  I'll stick to vacuuming and scrubbing the kitchen floor.  :)